The Internet broke after Bolu Okupe, son of Doyin Okupe, came out as gay. In an Instagram post on January 21st, Bolu wore a pride swim trunk and held a gorgeous rainbow flag on his arms while captioning his post “Yes, I am gay AF.” A lot of bigotry and derogatory statements from Nigerians were directed at Bolu. Despite that, he stood firm.
Following Bolu Okupe’s coming out, his father, Doyin Okupe posted a tweet stating his disappointment over his son’s sexuality. “My attention has been drawn to a publication of my 27yr old son, Bolu Okupe, in which he declared publicly that he is gay. I gave him that name MOBA OLUWA RIN, (I WALKED WITH GOD) because he was born at the time I gave my life to Christ.”
It’s important to know that Doyin Okupe was an aide who served under the administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Nigerian president who signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Acts, which has led to death, trauma, and victimization of members of the Nigerian LGBTQ community. In as much as coming out is a beautiful way to accept one’s sexual identity, it is on several occasions, a very terrible moment especially for those who live in Nigeria.
The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) was signed in 2014. It criminalizes the sexual relationship of same-sex partners with up to 14 years of jail time. In most parts of Nigeria, death sentences can be applied. Though this law doesn’t punish one for being gay, it has been misinterpreted by Nigeria, which means you can be punished for being gay through extortion, blackmailing, or by jungle justice which is grave.
For queer Nigerians living in Nigeria, it’s so difficult to live by their truths and identity. Those who choose to come out face cyberbullies, physical abusers, on daily basis. Because Nigeria is a deeply homophobic society, it’s usual for oppressors of queer people go scot-free.
Though Bolu Okupe is a Nigerian, he doesn’t reside in Nigeria where he might be physically abused by bigots waiting to use religion as their reasons to oppress people who have done no harm to them. Bolu suits the class of Nigerians who are privileged; who are able to live their truths abroad without having to be blackmailed, extorted, or killed.
Despite every occurrence, we still hope for the presence of boldness to encourage this generation of queer Nigerians to push for acceptance. But I believe that one day we won’t have to come out of the closet, we will say we are in love and that’s what matters.